Remarkable Horses in Canada: Burmese
By Margaret Evans
In the July/August 2017 issue of Canadian Horse Journal, we celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary with stories of 20 exceptional horses that have reflected our values and fired our national pride. One of those horses was Burmese.
In 1962, a coal black filly was born at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Remount Ranch in Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan. She quickly became a favourite of the recruits and was trained in the unique requirements of police protocols. She learned to cope with gunfire, crowds, pipes and drums, and obstacles thrown in her path. By age five, now known as Burmese, she was performing in the famed RCMP Musical Ride.
Burmese was half Thoroughbred, half Hanoverian. She was presented as a gift to Queen Elizabeth in 1969 when the RCMP was in the UK to perform at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. It was a way to honour the long-standing relationship with the Royal Family, given that the Queen is the RCMP’s honorary commissioner. Burmese quickly became one of the Queen’s favourite mounts. For 18 consecutive years she rode Burmese for Trooping the Colour, from 1969 to 1986.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II receiving Police Service Horse Burmese from Commissioner Malcolm Lindsay and S/Sgt. Ralph Cave (Riding Master for the RCMP Musical Ride. Photo: RCMP Historical Collection, RCMP Veterans Association
Since presenting Burmese to the Queen, the RCMP has gifted four other horses – Centennial in 1973, James in 1998, George in 2009, and Sir John in 2016. The Queen in turn gifted Golden Jubilee to the RCMP in 2002.
During the 1981 Trooping the Colour, the Queen was mounted on Burmese when six blank shots rang out in the crowd. Burmese startled but the Queen expertly brought her under control.
Burmese was retired from public life in 1986. She was turned out to pasture at Windsor Castle where the Queen could see her frequently on visits. In 1990, at age 28, Burmese passed away and was buried on the grounds.
To honour her equine partner, the Queen commissioned a bronze statue of herself mounted in classic sidesaddle on Burmese. The statue was unveiled in 2005 in front of the Saskatchewan Legislative building in Regina.
Main photo: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II riding Burmese at the Changing of The Colors ceremony in London. Courtesy of RCMP Historical Collection, RCMP Veterans Association